Achieving Viral Suppression
What Does it Mean to be Virally Suppressed?
Viral load is the amount of HIV in the blood of someone who is HIV-positive. When your viral load is very low (called viral suppression, with less than 200 copies per milliliter of blood), your chance of transmitting HIV is greatly reduced. Viral suppression is a health goal for all people living with HIV. If you’re living with HIV, you can achieve viral suppression by taking HIV medication (antiretroviral therapy, also known as ART) every day and exactly as prescribed.
Being virally suppressed doesn’t mean that you are cured—HIV is still in your body. But it does mean that the virus is kept in check so that it’s unable to multiply and destroy your immune system, and allow you to live a near normal lifespan.
The Importance of Viral Suppression
Viral suppression is a main goal of HIV treatment. It’s important for two reasons:
- Protecting your health. Being virally suppressed is good for an HIV-positive person’s overall health. By taking your HIV medication every day as prescribed and getting your viral load to an undetectable level, you can stay healthy and prevent your HIV infection from advancing to AIDS, the last stage of HIV infection. Less HIV means less damage to your immune system, allowing you to stay healthier and live longer.
- Reducing the risk of HIV transmission. Being virally suppressed also greatly reduces the risk of transmitting the virus to a sexual or drug-using partner who does not have HIV .
Most people with HIV who are adherent to their HIV medications can achieve viral suppression within 12-24 weeks of starting their medication. If they stay on medication, they can maintain viral suppression for life. That’s good news for your health!
But be aware: If you stop taking your HIV medication or frequently skip doses, your viral load will likely increase, putting your health at risk and increasing the chances that you may transmit the virus to others. That’s why it’s important to continue to take your HIV medication every day, exactly as prescribed, and to stay in HIV medical care.
Learn the latest
Read recent blog posts about the latest research on viral suppression and what it means for people living with HIV:
- Catching Fire: The Realities of the New Era in Prevention and Care by Richard Wolitski, Ph.D., Acting Director, Office of HIV/AIDS and Infectious Disease Policy, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
- Viral Suppression: The Struggle Is Real by Richard Wolitski, Ph.D., Acting Director, Office of HIV/AIDS and Infectious Disease Policy, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
- AIDSInfo – HIV Medication Adherence
- AIDSInfo – Following an HIV Regimen: Steps to Take Before and After Starting HIV Medicines
- HRSA – Guide for HIV/AIDS Clinical Care: HIV Treatment/Adherence
- HRSA – Guide to the Clinical Care of Women with HIV: Adherence to HIV Treatment and Retention in Care
- CDC – HIV Risk Reduction Tool (Beta Version)
- CDC – HIV Basics: Living with HIV
- CDC – HIV Treatment Works Campaign
- CMS – Guidance to Improve HIV Prevention and Care for Medicaid/CHIP Beneficiaries
- OWH – Managing Your Treatment of HIV/AIDS
- VA – Treatment Decisions for HIV
Last revised: 12/30/2016